Everyday, I help people who have fallen in love with Nova Scotia make it their permanent home. Often, they come as tourists, and eventually seasonal residents, and then want to make it official and finally immigrate. On a global level, the attraction of Nova Scotia can be summarized as (1) being safe and stable with a natural, unspoiled beauty; (2) it is geographically convenient; (3) there are opportunities here, if you can spot them.
Here are my ideas for making Nova Scotia more hospitable to newcomers:
- More people. It’s no secret that NS suffers from its “CFA” mentality. It’s not easy to wipe out an idea, but it is easy to dilute it. Nova Scotia needs more people and more diversity (and not just racial diversity, but diversity of ideas, cultures, people). Cue the ubiquitous commenters: “They are taking our jobs!” No: They are taking jobs Canadians don’t want or they are creating jobs. “They are undercutting Canadian’s pay!” Actually no: that’s illegal. “They are on welfare!” If they are, it’s because they are broken souls who have likely won their refugee claim, in which case, good for us for continuing the humanitarian tradition Canada is so proud of. To quote my husband: resist the fallacy of the vivid example.
- Nova Scotia should play to its geographic location. It should be easier and cheaper to get to and from here. I am no aviation expert but other “remote” destinations attract visitors by low-cost flights. Hawaii, for example. If Nova Scotia can subsidize a ferry service, why can’t it work towards making flights more affordable?
- Don’t ignore the rest of the history of Nova Scotia. “Scotland” may be built right into the name, but that’s not the end of the story. We have generations from other countries, cultures and ethnic groups. Those groups often get short shrift or we assume that a handful of individuals (usually male and older) speak for the whole community.
- Don’t ghettoize people from other places. It’s easy to have a weekend festival once a year, it’s hard to be genuinely inclusive for the remaining 51 weeks. The idea of locating ethnic food merchants to the second floor of the Seaport Market is a recent example. It’s important not to be careless: the feeling of being welcome is so fragile. If someone makes a careless decision or comment, the sense of inclusion erodes quickly and it’s really hard to replenish it.
- The importance of actions over words. Make no mistake, Pier 21 is lip service to the history and value of immigrants. And it’s not a completely happy or proud story. Taking the time to befriend or hire or simply meet and interact with newcomers is what shows we are welcoming. Learning about their religion, culture and community counts for a lot. We need to talk less and listen more. It is not easy to speak up as a newcomer, especially when you are bombarded with superficial and facile talk about how welcome you are.
- Recognize that Nova Scotia is more than its “official culture”. When a place is portrayed as homogenous and exclusionary, it is less welcoming. And by the way, the official culture needs to be more diverse and inclusive.
- Value newcomers for the opportunities they create: Contrary to popular belief, there are lots of opportunities here. Higher taxes and the cost of living do make it hard. But Nova Scotia has proven itself to be a perfect location for back-office and mid-office services. It’s a great place for a European company looking to get into the North American market. It’s also a great place for a European or American company to create a second office to service its global clients. Newcomers are pioneers and should be trusted to choose places where they can be successful. As of now, even if you have done your research and chosen Nova Scotia, it’s difficult to get permanent residence status here.
It sounds too simple, but it is human nature to want a safe and secure future for yourself and your children, and to feel like you belong in a place that also values you.